Thursday, January 13, 2011

TZ Promo: “Back There” (1/13/1961)

“Back There”
Season Two, Episode 13 (#49 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3648

♪ The professor and Mary Ann ♪.... oh wait, wrong theme song. Ahem. 50 years ago tonight, the man best remembered as the Professor on Gilligan's Island found himself in the past, and compelled to change history.

Russell Johnson stars as Peter Corrigan in Rod Serling's "Back There," directed by David Orrick McDearmon. The plot is really easy to encapsulate. Guy finds himself inexplicably in the past, tries to prevent Lincoln's assassination, instead gets c-blocked by John Wilkes Booth. Fail.

"Back There" has all the makings of a good episode... however, two things stand in its way: first, there's not much in the way of actual tension. The Twilight Zone requires the viewer to suspend its disbelief... up to a point. Some things are just too much to ask. We know Corrigan won't be able to stop Lincoln's assassination, so the whole affair is ultimately pointless. Second, as much as I like Russell Johnson (he was great in season one's "Execution"), he totally overacts here.

The best thing about the episode is Jerry Goldsmith's haunting, harpsichord-tinged score. The more recognizable cues will be reused later, to great effect, in season three's "To Serve Man" and season four's "Death Ship." The score was first released on Varese Sarabande’s The Twilight Zone: The Original Television Scores, Volume 3 LP (and CD in Japan), and later appeared on Silva’s The Twilight Zone 40th Anniversary Collection. It’s also presented in isolated form (on an alternate audio track) on Image Entertainment’s The Twilight Zone, Season 2: The Definitive Edition DVD, and on the recently-released blu-ray edition as well.

* The Professor, incidentally, did have a name... it was Roy Hinkley. How many of you knew that?

Next week: another videotaped episode. Unfortunately, it's the worst of the bunch. It stinks like a cheap used car.

1 comment:

ishkanei said...

"* The Professor, incidentally, did have a name... it was Roy Hinkley. How many of you knew that?"

Dude! I totally knew that! Dignity fail! But whatever. Yeah, the music? Typical Goldsmith, which is to say, brilliant stuff.

On the other hand, the idea of just suddenly, conveniently, for no remotely explicable reason, finding yourself in 1865 after a conversation about 'can you go back and change history, yes or no'? Now, when it comes to SF premises with flimsy empirical underpinnings, I can be pretty easy- but come on. Give us something to work with. He rubs a mysterious statue on the way out the door. He says the mysterious phrase local custom says you should never say as he leaves. Somebody slips him one hell of a mickey finn. Just something more than: he walks out the door, gets dizzy, sees gas lamps. I mean, you know, what would the Professor (rest in peace) say to the likelihood of that? And JWB... shouldn't he have been twirling his moustache a la Dishonest John (oops, a mislaid cartoon reference- from Beanie and Cecil, if you're interested). I mean to say, it wasn't just Russell Johnson overplaying his hand in this one.

But you know what? What the hell. The music is so good in this one I can forgive the episode being schlock. Just. But when the music is that good, it's that much easier to be gracious.